December, 2013

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East

All of our up to date fun and frolics in the East from office antics to great conservation stories and those magical connections with nature.
  • Reflections on the East Coast storm surge

    Blogger: Steve Rowland, Public Affairs Manager for RSPB Eastern England

    It’s now six days since the biggest surge tide to hit the East coast in 60 years. I’ve lived by the sea in North West Norfolk for 16 years, and every autumn / winter when there are spring tides I've looked at the weather forecast for those classic indicators of a storm surge; low pressure, a North West wind and big tides. There have been times over the years when we've had big tides which in places have broken through sea defences and caused some localised damage. But last Thursday night was different, different in that this was the biggy we all knew would come one day and different because unlike the 1953 surge tide nobody died. Since that fateful night 60 years ago, sea defences have been improved, our ability to predict surge tides has got better and our ability to communicate the need to take action with coastal communities is immeasurably more effective.

    I consider myself fortunate that my job at times gives me a very personal connection with projects helping to shape small parts of the East coast. For example, over a decade ago I worked on the managed realignment at Freiston Shore on the Lincolnshire banks of the Wash near Boston. Here, the RSPB team worked with the Environment Agency, local authorities and land owners to set back the coast to an older line of sea banks.  In front of these we have helped a new saltmarsh to take root, a natural and ever so durable soft sea defence that last Thursday night did its job and held the line against the tide. But it is worth remembering that on every tide this saltmarsh does a job as a flood defence, wildlife habitat, fish spawning ground and place for folk to go to for recreation.

    Boardwalk at RSPB Titchwell Marsh

    I also played a small role in the Titchwell Marsh Coastal Change project. This was both a visionary approach to how we manage the coast in front of an iconic nature reserve and also a very pragmatic solution. With the help of partners and funders we strengthened the sea defences so securing the medium term future of the reserve and were able as part of the project to provide new and improved visitor facilities. I walked the West Bank path at Titchwell the morning after the surge and, whilst the sea had caused some impressive damage to the beach boardwalk and sand dunes, the main sea defences had held and the new Parrinder Hide stood unscathed.

    The East coast is a dynamic place; its estuaries add an energy and a wilfulness to the landscape. Ally this with the slow post ice age sinking of Brittannia's rump and the impact of climate change, with increased storminess and rising sea levels, and it seems obvious to me that we need to plan ahead.  We need to think about how we manage this coastline, and where we can use cost effective soft natural sea defences. We need to ensure that these new sea defences are in place and able to do their job on nights like last Thursday and on 365 days a year provide a beautiful landscape for people to enjoy and a home for nature.

    One such place where we are doing just this is at Wallsasea Island, a flat expanse of former marshland that is now arable, sandwiched between the Crouch and Roach estuaries in Essex. Here, the Environment Agency had identified a stretch of coast with unsustainable sea defences that would one day have to be returned to the sea. The RSPB project team, in which I have been lucky to play a small part, have worked with the landowner and a range of partners including the Environment Agency and Crossrail on a truly inspirational coastal habitat creation project to realign Wallasea Island.  The result is the creation of hundreds of hectares of wildlife habitats and a long term sustainable sea defence.

    There’s a lot to worry and think about at the moment.  One concern that is nagging at me is that we take a pour concrete solution, putting hard concrete walls around our coast, as an attempt to set in a moment of time the line of a coast when the elements in which it sits, the rising sea on one side and sinking land on the other are inexorably shifting. This kind of solution would force water further down the narrowing funnel of the North Sea until eventually the displaced water finds a weak spot to flood. In the meantime we lose yet more precious intertidal habitat upon which coastal wildlife and people depend. This isn't to say that there will not be places where hard sea defences will be appropriate, but we need to consider where we should be visionary and put soft but effective natural sea defences in place.

    Wildlife hide at RSPB Snettisham

    I'd like to finish back on my home patch in North West Norfolk. On Friday, I spent the day with colleagues inspecting the impact of the storm at Titchwell and Snettisham. Then on Saturday I drove the coast road between Burnham Overy Staithe and Brancaster Staithe. Over these two days I saw for myself the sheer scale and power of the of the surge tide. Homes and businesses had been flooded out, the fresh marshes behind the seawall had flooded and the sea and these new inland saltwater lakes joined together. At Snettisham, a personal favourite place of mine, the landscape had changed and I struggled to get my bearings at times. I feel that it is important as we start to plan the future of the coast that wherever it is practical, we reinstate these fresh marshes and where it is not we as a nation look to replace them else where, as has been done by the Environment Agency for many reedbeds already.

    So much destruction and yet so much determination and resolve to rebuild and put in place robust coastal defences working with nature to rebuff the worst of nature. I have spoken with colleagues about the sheer scale of the reconstruction needed at Snettisham and also of the opportunity that we have to rebuild this amazing nature reserve to be an even better place for people and wildlife in the future. I must admit to conflicting emotions, at times I have found being witness to the sheer power and dynamism of this event energising and at other times the scale of the destruction and cost of rebuilding has felt quite overpowering.

    Along with colleagues over the coming weeks and months I'll be working on our response to the damage caused by the surge tide. You too can help us in this mammoth task, we're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused by the worst storm in 60 years. A donation from you, whatever you can afford, will go a long way to help us restore these precious homes for nature. Thank you.

  • Christmas is coming!

    Blogger: Sarah Green

    Stuck for Christmas ideas?  Finding the shopping season a bit much and feel a need to get away from it all?

    Why not support wildlife in the East through supporting RSPB Minsmere’s corporate members? 

    Tala is a long established kitchenware brand selling pretty vintage style equipment for all your baking, icing and preserving needs (and probably more besides!).  Tala goods are stocked in loads of shops so should be easy to find if you are up for braving the crowds and shopping in person.  If you have any problems finding stockists, you can contact them on twitter and facebook.  I can personally confirm their biscuit cutters are well worth the price! 

    If the shopping is getting a bit much, and holiday season is leaving you in need of a break, how about booking a night or two at the Westleton Crown, just 2 miles from Minsmere, or the Ship at Dunwich, just 5 miles from Minsmere.  Both have some special offers running throughout December so why not check them out.  You could even get in a spot of winter wildlife watching at Minsmere!

    Lastly, if you want to make your Christmas dinner really tasty, you could order some beef from Riverside Beef.  Riverside Beef’s cattle graze in harmony with nature, on pastures and meadows in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.  See the website for their retail outlets and information about their beef boxes delivered fresh to your door.  Find them on twitter at @jonriverside.

    And don’t forget, the RSPB online shop has hundreds of gift ideas or you can buy gifts in person at some of our reserves across the East including Minsmere, The Lodge and Titchwell.

    Happy holidays!

     

  • Make 2014 your year for volunteering!

    Blogger: Rachael Murray

    As the New Year approaches, I can already feel that annual urge come upon me.  You know the one, the need to ‘take stock’, that growing list parked in a corner of your mind, or idly scribbled on a scrap of paper as you watch TV after another turkey based meal. The wish list of things you hope the forthcoming 12 months may have in store.

    Often these aspiration inventories include ways to improve our health, realise long held dreams, look after others or to bring new inspiration, resources and contacts into our lives. 

    As someone who has volunteered throughout my life, I can honestly say that one of the most ‘fix all’ solutions I have found for these early year yearnings is volunteering.

    Where else can you experience the much needed physical and spiritual warmth generated by embracing a passion, getting active, meeting people and providing much needed support to others?  And for some, it is the seedling that, in time, blossoms into a rewarding new career.

    At the RSPB there are currently over 17,000 passionate, friendly people volunteering with us, each in their own way giving nature a home. This adds up to over one million hours of their time, each year!

    However, there’s plenty of room for more. In particular, we are currently looking for two people passionate about conservation and a career in the sector, who are able to dedicate a year to volunteering on our Eastern England reserves, Frampton Marsh and Titchwell Marsh.

    Our Conservation Interns work with our reserve management teams 5 days a week, and are provided with a high quality training programme, ongoing mentoring and lots of practical experience.

    Paul Stagg, Conservation Volunteering Intern at Old Hall Marshes said “In conservation, experience is invaluable, as I soon discovered when I started looking for a job in the field. This Internship provides an excellent head start and gave me the opportunity to get involved with all aspects of reserve management - from survey work to land management to people engagement. I've waded through reed beds, herded cattle, taken conservation to the public through events and guided walks and stood in quiet wonder on nocturnal heaths listening to the chirring of nightjars all around.

    The result is an outstanding wealth and depth of experience - you'll soon learn where your strengths lie and what you enjoy (it’s not always what you expect!). Along the way I always had a supportive team around me, happy to share their knowledge and teach me what they knew. There were countless opportunities to meet people already working in the field, gain the benefit of their experience and learn a wealth of skills. The natural world urgently needs passionate, versatile individuals to take on the challenge of protecting it and this is an excellent opportunity to gain the skills and experience you need to do just that”

    The successful candidates will spend a year from early March working alongside RSPB staff at Frampton and Titchwell (6 months at each). Free accommodation is provided.

    For more information about the scheme and for an application pack please contact Annie Cane 01603 660066 / Annie.Cane@rspb.org.uk. The closing date for applications is 5pm Friday 10 January 2014. Interview date is Tuesday 21 January. 

    In addition to residential volunteers, we have plenty of other volunteering roles to suit your lifestyle, interests and aspirations.

    Ordinary people from all walks of life, with a variety of skills and with varying amount of time available, join with us every year to help give nature a home. Why don’t you make 2014 the year that you join the RSPB team?

    Check out www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering for more information on all the volunteering opportunities available across the Eastern Region.